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Western New York Artists Group exhibit at Art Dialogue

A painting by Eileen Pleasure O'Brien.

Codes and Conversations

Excellent paintings by Eileen Pleasure O’Brien, photographs by James Sedwick, and sculptures by Dianne Baker comprise the current Western New York Artists Group exhibit at the Art Dialogue Gallery.

The sculptures are of found materials of the sort you might stumble upon (literally) in an urban vacant lot. Rusty metal in various forms and of unknown and sometimes known functions. From heavy-gauge riveted or welded remnants of old industrial apparatus to ancient bedding box springs. Old chunks of lumber. Old fabric, including textiles and some throw-away materials. Old brown paper towels.

Fashioned into combinations exhibiting not precisely chance—because they are intentionally so combined by the mind and hand of the artist—nor a logic related to any vaguely representational form, but just a tacit dialogue—as the artist calls it in written statement about her work—between the various materials, and the materials and seemingly accidentally occasioned form.

Sometimes the dialogue is more palpable, as in a wall-hanging piece, the matrix found object of which is an old metal milk bottle carrier box, with all kinds of art references. The wire grid base and sides—painting references—morphing into the sculptural three-dimensional form of the box. The grid latticework interlaced with strips of old photographic film and wire window screening—recollection in miniature of the basic box grids—among other materials. And at what would be the bottom of the box if it were placed, as in its original function, on the ground or floor, but now, in the wall-hanging work, face on to the viewer, a small piece of sheet metal somehow—as if accidentally—spatter painted in a pattern reminiscent of nothing so much as a Jackson Pollock canvas.

Sometimes more nebulous, as in a piece composed of a tangle of old box spring and wound piano wire in states of advanced decomposition but still competent as debris for another few decades at least, and paper towels, in a conglomerate that seems to be about the various rates of decay—or alternatively, persistence—in the natural environment of the various unnatural materials, but also about the visual aesthetic quality of the billowing cloud-like form of the wiry trash assemblage.

There are two iconic objects, non-representational, but simply about presence, including the presence of the past. Large, standing sections of well-rusted but still sturdy industrial metal, one with drilled holes (not by the artist, but in the original piece, for whatever its industrial use) at regular intervals along the length of the piece, the other with a welded-on coarse-mesh screen at right angles to the length of the main portion.

Another rusted metal piece looks like a busted-off near hemisphere end section of some small container tank, with two pipe-connection openings, now like empty eyeholes. Reminiscent of some ancient war helmet. As well as the long-dead warrior who wore it.

James Sedwick’s seductively lovely photos capture the chaos pattern of surface irregularities—minute wave peaks and troughs—in gently moving natural waters—streams and river shallows and the like—and attendant liquid blend of light and color reflections and refractions. The physics of shimmer, if anyone could understand it. It’s enough to just observe it.

Eileen Pleasure O’Brien’s abstract paintings juxtaposing large areas of contrasting colors and textures display the artist’s evident delight in generous application of paint to canvas. The larger paintings are more successful, allowing more breathing room, more imaginative freedom. She also has a series of anthropological works, white-on-black signs and symbols taken from markings on weapons from primitive New Guinea. A code we can’t decipher but recognize as somehow a language, as meaningful even if we don’t know the meaning.

The three-artist exhibit continues through the end of the month.

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